Your 3D printer could make you a COVID-19 hero

Local businesses put out call for 3D printers in the community

Credit: Tinkerine.

Eugene Suyu, CEO of Tinkerine. His company and Crisis Rapid Prototyping Society are two B.C. businesses reaching out to 3D printer owners

Local businesses put out call for 3D printers in the community

It’s hard not to feel helpless in these difficult times, but if you have a 3D printer, you might play a key role in supporting B.C.’s health-care workers in the coming months.

Two B.C. companies, Victoria-based Crisis Rapid Prototyping Society (CRPS) and Delta-headquartered Tinkerine, are reaching out to owners of 3D printers in an attempt to prepare for what seems like an inevitable increase in need for medical equipment in the near future.

“We got started less than two weeks ago, when the news started coming in about how COVID-19 was disrupting supply chains,” says Devon Black, vice-president and acting project coordinator at CRPS. After doing some research and reading articles coming out of Italy about people 3D-printing ventilator parts, Black and her team decided to start cataloguing the province’s 3D printing capacity. “If we have those same types of supply chain interruptions here, we want to make sure there is information available for government and regional health authorities to rely on,” she says.

Eugene Suyu, CEO of Tinkerine, had a similar idea. Tinkerine, a 3D printer manufacturing and education technology company, had already started designing and producing medical equipment on its own when it saw an untapped resource: 3D printers in schools. “We thought, Well, schools are closed, and we know there are at least 600 printers out there,” Suyu says. So he and his team created a virtual sign-up sheet for what they call the Education Production Consortium, a group of K-12 educators who have printers inside their schools.

While Tinkerine contacts schools specifically, CRPS is compiling a list that includes recreational or hobbyist printers. Though not all 3D printers meet the technical specs to produce something like a ventilator part, Black says, most can generate simpler equipment like face shields. 

3D printing isn’t a permanent solution to supply chain disruptions, but both CRPS and Tinkerine think it could be an asset for the time being. “This is an option that we want to make sure is available in case it becomes necessary,” says Black, who is hoping that 3D printer owners in more-remote regions of B.C., like Kamloops, Nelson and Prince George, can help bridge a local demand-driven shortage.

“At Tinkerine, we are looking at what it means to be socially responsible as a business,”  Suyu explains. “As much as it is a feel-good story, we’re really trying to make an impact here.”

If you’re an owner of or have access to a 3D printer, answer the call! You can contact CRPS here and Tinkerine here.